Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Nevin
Published October 6, 2016 by Penguin Random House
Source: the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours.
I never got around to reading Jennifer Nevin's debut, All the Bright Places, but it's a book I've been meaning to read because I know it's well-loved. So when I saw her second novel was being released, I jumped at the chance to read it.
Holding Up the Universe is a cleverly told story of two very distinct and realistic characters. Both Libby and Jack grabbed me from the beginning and I was intrigued to get to know them. Libby is amazing, she has been through so much from her mother's sudden death to her life-threatening weight gain, but she is unbelievably strong and determined. Jack is dealing with prosopagnosia - the inability to recognise faces, even those of your loved ones and closest friends. His fear of being teased, lied to, or attacked was so palpable, it was easy to see why his anger got out of control.
It was endearing to watch the relationship between Libby and Jack develop and to see each of them grow over the course of the story. Each of their conditions is written about honestly and with sensitivity. The ending was sweet and hopeful, and left me a little teary.
Ableist language: freak, dumb, crazy, idiot, lame, imbecile, moron, maniac.
Thank you to Random House Australia for the ARC via Netgalley.